Japan’s trade minister denies plans to quit
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s trade minister denied reports Saturday that she plans to resign soon over allegations that she violated election laws.
Japanese media reported Saturday that Trade Minister Yuko Obuchi was planning to submit her resignation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upon his return later in the day from an Asia-Europe summit in Italy. But Obuchi told reporters that she was still investigating the allegations that she failed to report donations and spending by a political support group.
“Right now, what I must do is to fully investigate the various questions regarding campaign funds,” Obuchi said. “We are thoroughly investigating.”
Asked if she had plans to meet with Abe, Obuchi said no.
Obuchi, daughter of a former prime minister and a former newscaster, is one of five women Abe appointed in a Cabinet reshuffle last month, highlighting his commitment to promoting women to leadership positions.
Lawmakers of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which lost power to Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party in late 2012, are seeking whatever leverage they can find against the LDP’s overwhelming parliamentary majority. Three other female Cabinet ministers have also been questioned over campaign giveaways, gaffes or alleged links to racist groups.
Obuchi is seen as a possible future contender for prime minister. Grilled by opposition party members in parliament this past week, she apologized for funding irregularities, though she said she had found no evidence of alleged personal use of campaign funds that were paid to a company run by a relative. Obuchi said neckties and handkerchiefs designed by her sister were used for political activities, as gifts and souvenirs.
Justice Minister Midori Matsushima stirred controversy for giving away “uchiwa” fans in her constituency, a possible election law violation, and for using parliament-provided housing while keeping security guards at her private residence in downtown Tokyo.
Two other female Cabinet members known as Abe’s close allies on the right were criticized for suspected ties with racist groups.